Saturday 31 December 2022

New years eve noodle!

Ah, seeing Naudo post this old classic again made me get out my guitar and noodle: Naudo Angie

I wrote down some of the notes I was hearing, and added some extras I wanted to hear, but left out some that I couldn't hear... or play.  Here's some scribble, I'm not sure if I will take this on, so I'm posting this just in case I don't!

Tuesday 27 December 2022

Jawmunji word cloud 2022

I haven't done a word cloud for ages, let's look at one generated by for my 2022 posts!

The big stand out words come from the work I did on guitar necks and nuts this year. 

"Album" features because of a huge article I wrote - and have edited numerous times - about the albums that have influenced me.

My article on swing made it no surprise that the word "swing" got a high rating.  Yah to swing!

"Play" and "guitar" - I'd be disappointed if they weren't there. I was happy to see the word "just" didn't crack a mention. I just say "just" just too much!

Yep, it all sounds like me.  "Good Play Go!"  "Make Album Right!"  "One More Nut!"  "Now Song Guitar Another Classic Need!"


Saturday 24 December 2022

Every Stalk You Make

A few weeks back I discussed my lunchtime office playing with a work mate, and mentioned that I had a stalker - someone who I'd seen a few times, sitting in a booth at the very back mostly hidden, never saying anything.  He asked if I played any stacker songs.  I immediately thought "Every Breath You Take", but as the internet shows there have been quite a few stalker songs written.  And then The Algorithm got me - when I next looked at my Youtube feed up came Gabriella's recent version of "Any Breath You Take".  She played it in a style similar to how I would play it, so I picked up the guitar and had a crack.

I started on a G chord which was what I heard in my head. The chord progression turned out to be the basic doo-wap (Stand By Me chord progression) so G - Em - C - D. But wait! There are super tasty 2nd intervals in there, which come through loud and clear in the studio recording guitar riff.  My understanding is we refer to them a Major Ninths - I guess if you played a G with the A two semitones up it would sound bad, but if you play the G and the A an octave + two semitones up it sounds delicious. What made me even happier with that is the Em becomes Em add 9 which is The Pink Floyd Chord, the first chord on the Dark Side of the Moon Album. Happy days!

When I looked back at Gabriella's version, I noticed she started on A.  Ah, interesting. I then looked it up and the actual song starts on Ab.  Too late, I had my heart set on G so I could play The Pink Floyd Chord :-) I didn't look at Gabriella's version again, but thanks for inspiring me Gabby!

It took under a week to arrange it "JAW style" learn it and memorise it, it is now in my Friday rotation, ready for any stalkers I might have. "Oh that beautiful wedding song!" "You mean that creepy stalker song?"

I really need to record some songs for you all don't I.  Tell you what, for now, grab your guitar and play the intro as a primer:


Thanks to for having a html cleaner that thinks the same as I do. I probably should stop writing in html but it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Thanks also to for some interesting and well laid out insights into this song!

Sunday 13 November 2022

Bass Nut

Broken nut

The school where I repair guitars has an acoustic bass, and somehow the nut was cracked. I don't know how you crack a nut, but the various guitar damage I have repaired over the years nothing surprises me anymore. In fact a few years ago the headstock on this acoustic bass was clean broken off. I wasn't game to fix that so it was professionally reattached, you can still see a bit of the scar in the photos. The repair on the back of the neck - where it counts - is smooth as, so good job whoever you are.

Since I had recently made a nut for my custom electric (I still need to remake that nut) I was in the nut making zone. I had already stocked up on bone blanks for nuts and saddles (they are cheap from Aliexpress), and I had one that was the right thickness it just needed to be cut down in width and the height made to match the fretboard curve. Once I had chiselled out the old nut, I cleaned the glue from the nut slot with a small file. I have an inexpensive set of jewellers files, it comes in handy.

New remade nut

I use a cheap hobby vice to hold the nut while I file it, and I have a small piece of super flat marble stone for putting sheets of sandpaper on to get those perfectly flat edges. A good trick I saw on the internet for when you have something thin and you are trying to get the thin edge to 90° and flat - put another object with a perfect 90° edge on and run your thin edge piece back and forth on the sandpaper along the side of it.

Because bass strings are so fat, even the thickest guitar nut slot file I have is too thin...the jewellers files came in hand for that again. I based my nut spacing on the old nut which was already pretty good. I set the depth with the tap test - if you fret the 3rd and then tap on the string at the first fret there should be the tiniest gap, just enough to get a 'plink' as you tap. This makes a lot of sense to me - the string height at the nut should basically be the same as if there was another fret behind. If the string height is too high then you are bending the string too much when you fret the first, and you will hear that in the intonation, the open string will be in tune but the first fret will be sharp. I find I get this anyway, I fret too hard, so I'm pushing the string too far into the fret which sharpens it. It's nice however when you have the string height at the nut as low as possible to begin with.

If you file the slot too low, then the string is going to buzz on the first fret. That's not good. This what naturally happened to my main classical, after years of tuning - pulling the strings through the slots - they are actually worn down too far, and the open string buzzes.

Even with the nut slots as low as I could take them, this bass guitar is still pretty awful to play, the action is so high! I filed down the saddle which improved it but not enough. I adjusted the truss rod -  to the point the top string was starting to buzz a little and then backed it off a turn or two. The truss rod is only really for adjusting the neck relief not action, even though it does affect action. What the real problem with that guitar is - the neck angle.

To be honest, almost every guitar I come across that is more than say 20 years old has a slightly wrong neck angle. This makes sense - wood is not a dead piece of spring steel - over time , under constant force, wood is going to give a little. The physics of the situation is that most of the force is in the plane of the neck - so not pulling up - but there is enough force there for something to give over time. The give seems to be on the soundboard, which also makes sense. You end up having a very slight caving in deflection of the sound board between the neck and the sound hole. Guitar makers don't make a soundboard so rigid it will resist deflecting in - that would spoil the tone.

So, I would say most 20+ year old guitars need a neck reset. Basically detach the neck, cut some meat/new angle out of the heel, reattach. I've seen formulas on the internet for calculating the amount to remove, usually ends up being a millimetre or two. Once you glue it back on - the soundboard caving in/etc is still there - but now the neck is compensated for it. And you are back to blissful action again!

Generally the lower the action - given that there are no buzzes anywhere - the more playable the guitar is. You don't have to take you fretting fingers off and on so far as you refret. It's just a nicer experience. It feels like the guitar is working with you instead of against you. Even my main classical's action is starting to get a teensy bit high. It is a 2002 model, so that fits my 20+ theory. For now I'm going to stick with lower tension strings for a while.

But my oldest classical from the late 70's is quite far gone. I'd like to adjust it. I've seen an interesting hack where you cut through the heel with a thin saw, and then reglue and clamp the cut. You won't get the same perfect mating surface when you bend the heel in, so it will need to be the right type of glue to hold and fill, but the neck angle will have been readjusted. Maybe I'll buy an old cheap classical and practise on that first :-)

Saturday 15 October 2022

String spacing

Nut width: 52.5mm
High E: 3.8mm
Low E: 4.6mm

Hybrid Nylon
Nut width: 47.7mm
High E: 4.8mm
Low E: 5.1mm

Nut width: 44.4mm
High E: 3.0mm
Low E: 2.7mm

Strat Copy
Nut width: 48.0mm
High E: 3.0mm
Low E: 3.6mm

Tele Copy
Nut width: 43.0mm
High E: 3.1mm
Low E: 3.4mm

Nut width: 41.9mm
High E: 3.1mm
Low E: 3.3mm

So after cutting a nut for the custom neck on the Strat Copy, and then played a tune I realised I didn't like the nut I had cut. The string heights were bad on the bass notes, so it sounds out of tune - which can be fixed -  but what I didn't like was the string spacing. The top E was too close to the side of the neck. I had cut it to a fairly general specification - 3.0mm - but it wasn't working for me.

To find out why, I thought I would measure up the guitars I own, and how much I like or don't like their string spacing.

Quick note - the spacing is from the edge of the fretboard to the edge of the string, not to the centreline of the string.

I had hoped it was simply a "this is the distance that feels good" but it isn't.  It is a combination of several things, definitely the string gauge (nylon is much thicker than than steel for trebles!) probably string height off fretboard, probably neck radius, but other more subtle things like the radius of the front side edges of fretboard would make a difference.

It was a good exercise to measure though:

  • Classical is okay, the low E could be a tad closer to the edge and I'd be fine with that.
  • Hybrid Nylon is yuck! This exercise showed my why I stopped playing it years ago - the string spacing is gross!  You can even see it in the picture long before you take a measurement, both E's are too far away from the edge of the fretboard, which crams the strings up together.  I reckon if I cut another nut for this, it will completely change the way this guitar feels.
  • Acoustic is okay.  I reckon I could use a tiny bit more space from the side on the high E.  Surprisingly the very close low E string works out fine, especially when you are thumb fretting the bass. The advantage of a close distance to the edge of the fretboard means more distance available in string spacing, so you don't feel so cramped.
  • Strat Copy the high E is too close, low E is fine.
  • Tele Copy is fine, but the whole thing is too cramped with only a 43.0mm neck.
  • Electric is fine, but even more cramped than the Tele Copy.

So what do I think?  I'm estimating for a steel string (electric or acoustic) I would go with a 46mm neck, the high E at 3.5mm spacing, the low E at 3.0mm.  For a nylon, I'm estimating a 50mm neck with the high E at 3.5mm and the low E at 3.5mm.

This sure reinforces that the best way to know what you like is to play many guitars - I mean look at the differences in these string spacings I found! What suits me might not suit you - there is probably a cut for everyone - for instance somebody out there thought my hybrid nylon spacing was a good idea!

(Thinks wistfully about the $AUD4k Cole Clarke acoustic at Kosmic Music a few months back that just played so easily and beautifully - that must had the perfect string spacing for me.)


Monday 26 September 2022

Custom Neck Installed

It finally happened, but not what I had planned... Back in March I bought an electric guitar, and then ordered a custom neck which arrived in May at which time I realised I had accidentally specified a Strat neck pocket instead of a Tele neck pocket.  While I _could_ have made it fit, I sat on my hands for a few months agonising over it, and then eventually snapped and bought a cheap second hand Strat copy from the pawn shop and installed the neck on that.

It's been an interesting exercise, I've learnt a lot.  Here is some of it!

Thanks again Leo Fender for standardising bolt on necks.  The Strat copy I bought is the same neck as a real Strat and the same as what a bloke in China made with his bare hands. So it fits just fine.  not sure why you changed the design between Strats (overhanding fretboard in the neck pocket) and Teles (flat ended in the neck pocket) though.

Looks pretty! I like the classical guitar
fretboard and the overall simple clean lines

Handmaking the nut is not complicated, but it is tedious.  There are numerous tutorials on the interwebs so I don't need to write it up here, but I am going to talk more about spring spacing in another blog. By the time I had finished the nut I was already dissatisfied with it and I will be re-making it, but it will do for now. Shout out to Mr Manchester for his handy spacing calculator. When I make my next better one I will talk about it some more then.

Aligning the neck is nerve wracking.  Clamp the neck into the pocket, put on both E strings and then rotate it until the neck is square.  Then drill!  I reckon I was pretty close - I won't need to fill the holes and do it again.

Something as simple as drilling tiny screw holes to hold the machine heads in place.  This seems so obvious in hindsight - but screw on the machine heads first, wiggle them so they are perfectly lined up, then screw the little holes to lock them in place so they don't rotate. Not before! Streuth, I don't know what I was thinking - I was rushing it.

Enough talk about the build! What is it like to play? How does it sound?

Ha ha - I don't know yet!  I think I like it! I think I don't like it! I am going to remake the nut because the intonation for the low E is awful - the action is too high - and the top E needs to come in, it's too close to the edge of the fretboard.

But it sounds like an electric guitar, so I took a moment to record something electric guitarish:

A shout out to my Patreons who help fund projects like this, and keep me supplied with fresh guitar strings 👍

Friday 23 September 2022

Musescore Swings!

"If you gotta ask, you'll never know" - an old response to "What is swing?"

My hands found swing a long time ago - my brain had no idea what they were doing, but it sure felt groovy.

So when I started tackling arrangements with swing, I just couldn't get down what I was playing. I generally left the swing out with an instruction "just listen and play it like that". Occasionally the swing was so prominent and important I had to put it in the sheet. For example in 2019 I attempted to write out "Gold" by John Stewart as swung and got this:

Which I quickly abandoned because "something just isn't right, and wow, that's hard to type in."

But it's actually a good insight into how swing is notated - that above is text book "shuffle" - so I discovered. Secret let out - swing is delayed offbeats. Forcing the notation into triplets like I did above is a hard shuffle where the normal offbeat (the "and" note between main beats) is pushed out from 1/2 of the way to 2/3 of the way to the next note.

So when I recently took on "Horse With No Name" I once again came up against how to get that swing feel into Musescore. Because when I played the song I realised that my hands were playing swing. (How do they do that? How do they know when something swings, and when something doesn't? See opening sentence.)

So in my frustration I googled "Musescore swing". And what do you know, it's been there all this time! Musescore for the win!

In Musescore version 3, you actually just add text to a note, and that brings up a properties option, and in this case you can set the swing options. In version 4 it's right there in Format->Style->Score. And the people who write the Musescore software are clearly music geniuses - there is a percentage setting for the swing delay, so 50% means the offbeat note is "where it should be" out to 100% meaning the offbeat note is actually on the next beat (ha ha - let's call that "ultimate swing").

But let's not just talk about it, let's see it in action! Here are the first 4 bars "straight" to begin with and then "swing" at 60%, which feels about right.

Look, this is big improvement, but it is a strict rigid swing. I can hear that my hands actually vary the swing per offbeat as they go - for instance, "the" in "all the life" doesn't quite sound right in the above. I experimented with the swing setting after I did this, and discovered my hands actually swing "the" around 65% rather than 60%.

At least half of my arrangements need swing turned on I reckon - the text "Swing" at the top, and then when it plays back you hear the delayed offbeats.

"If you gotta ask, you'll never know" - but now we know, and luckily you never asked 🙂


Monday 5 September 2022

What's happening September 2022

Quite a lot going on! Guitar repairs, new songs, playing out, where to start? Quick review, more details later!

  • "Fixed" the nut on the classical using the old supa glue and filler trick. The tips is to use bicarb soda as a filler - ie, make a "cement" of bicarb and superglue, and fill the slot. Then when it is hard, file it down. I thought that bicarb of soda sounded a bit wimpy, so I filed a bit of bone dust off a spare nut I had. Don't do this. The bone dust is nowhere near fine enough. While it made a good cement, and I was able to file it down, and now the buzz is all gone - it's so rough the string won't slide through when you are tuning. You have to yank it, and it twangs as it moves. No good. I will have to fix this properly.
  • I'm "playing out", kinda. I left my old classical guitar at work, some mornings if I'm early I'll play a few tunes before work, but on Fridays I would go to the park nearby and play for an hour lunch break. One Friday, it was raining and cold so I asked the security dudes if there was somewhere in the building I could play. They said to go into the break out room - it's quite a big room, there is a TV and couches and a kitchen and tables for people to have lunch at. Not normally very busy, so I sat in there and played for an hour. It's good practise, gotta keep all these songs fresh. A few people would stop and chat, but mostly quiet. But then last week it was getting busy, and people asking me if I'm doing this again next week. So, kinda playing out, kinda building an audience :-)
  • So I listened to Rick Bee-at-oh talking about famous songs that were only two chords. Rick is an interesting guy. Him and Mary Spender (an interesting lady) and another dude played them - one of them was "Horse With No Name" and I was, "No way, that's not just two chords". Went and listened to it. Yep, it's two chords. "That one will be easy to fingerstyle, shirley!" Well it is, and kinda addictive.
  • My eldest daughter, yes the one mentioned in the Canon in D, now 18, was in Sydney last month and while there saw Gorillaz in concert. Said it was a hoot. You know, I never realised that Damon was the lead singer of Blur. It all makes sense now. Anyway I looked at a bootleg video of the concert, and 19-2000 came on. I'd always liked that song. Thought - "I might be able to fingerstyle that". And I did. There is a lot of flying up and down the fretboard, so it's hard to be accurate. More practise required. But I reckon I've come up with a perky arrangement. Check it out!


Friday 19 August 2022

Best Albums of All Time

I hinted in my last video about Best Albums of All Time. No - not best songs, but particularly best albums, from the days when albums used to be a thing. I generally don't post click bait Top-14-Best-Things-Everrr but the comment I made had me thinking a bit - what albums have had an effect on me over the course of my life, and what albums have stood the test of time, what are the ones I would play through right now? Let's find out, in my most favourite listenable order!

1. Pink Floyd - The Dark Side of the Moon - 1973 Phase 2 No surprise here, this has been with me since I found it in the late 80's. Only album I have put all songs to fingerstyle. I would still listen to this album once a month, sometimes more.

2. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here - 1975 Phase 2 Also no surprise, I discovered this album at the same time as Dark Side of the Moon. Not much more to say, I also listen to this album once a month. Great album.

3. Fleetwood Mac - Rumours - 1977 Phase 1 Every song stands on its own. Not a concept album like the previous two, but they all link together in such a great way. Well crafted, great album, my dad had me listening to it the moment it came out. Musically this album was very formative.

4. Ween - The Mollusk - 1997 Phase 3 I was put onto this by a friend when it came out, and I couldn't stop listening to it. Another concept album, and another album where each and every song stands on its own. Some dark themes in there, all very progressive rock. Caution - coarse language. Fun fact - the cover was created by Storm Thorgerson, who did a lot of art work for Pink Floyd.

5. Jeff Wayne - War of the Worlds - 1978 Phase 1 Another concept album, imagine that! A science fiction rock opera with recurring motifs and such varied characters. I loved the LP art - I would stare at those pictures as a kid while listening, I felt closer to "being a part of a story" through that music and art than any movie had ever done.

6. ELO - ELO's Greatest Hits - 1979 Phase 1 A collection of great songs, it was my dad that put this music in my head. Wonderful collection of Rock and Electronic perfect for my early teens. Strange that they released a "best of" so early on, there were several albums with great songs after this one. I like all the songs on this album, but it is missing "Don't Bring me Down" - that should have been there!

7. The Presidents of the United States of America - The Presidents of the United States of America - 1995 Phase 3 My wife and I would play this loudly while imbibing a few beverages. It fit perfectly in those early marriage years, just fun and catchy music.

8. Meatloaf - Bat out of Hell - 1977 Phase 1 Just classic rock. Another album my dad put into my head. Lots of emotion, lots of meaning. Each song great listening.

9. Tame Impala - Lonerism - 2012 Phase 3 A band from my home town, this is a great fusion of old school psychedelic rock, catchy pop rock, and interesting synth sounds. One or two songs are a little too far out there for me, but this is an album I can listen to from start to finish anytime. Interestingly, this is the "newest" album on my list, and yet it has an old school sound.

10. Metallica - And Justice for All - 1988 Phase 2 This dropped at the exact time I was ready for this. I didn't like hard heavy metal, but this more pop/rock flavour of heavy metal really worked for me. Full of political commentary which gelled with me at the time, these days not so much. But I could still sing you each song.

11. Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction - 1987 Phase 2 As above, this was released at the right time in my life. One or two songs don't work for me quite as much as the rest, but its relentless beat, and like the above, political and personal commentary, just clicked for me at the time.

12. Jagged Little Pill - Alanis Morissette - 1995 Phase 3 My fondness for this album comes mostly via my wife. Well crafted, razor sharp lyrics - anger abounds - but tempered with the occasional sweeter side.

13. Iron Maiden - Powerslave - 1984 Phase 2 Discovered during the time I was enjoying the heavier side of music. Has a bit of a concept feel to it with its nod to ancient Egypt, the last two songs on the album I can still listen to all day.

14. America - History: America's Greatest Hits - 1975 Phase 1 Another album my dad forced into my brain. Some great songs.

15. Ottmar Liebert - Nouveau Flamenco - 1990 Phase 3 A quirky/wonderful instrumental album that was on constant repeat in a café where my wife and I often had tea and cake.  We had pretty much memorised the whole album before we asked what it was and bought it for ourselves.

16. U2 - The Joshua Tree - 1987 Phase 2 Probably the only album in my list here that is a celebrated "best album of all time" that got so much airplay I bought the album because it was just really good. Side one is a standout, side two doesn't standout but is quite good.

So I noticed that these albums came into my life over 3 broad periods of time:

  • Phase 1 - 5 albums - the 70's stuff my dad caused me to fall in love with when I was young;
  • Phase 2 - 6 albums - the stuff I found myself in my late teenage years when I was music focused;
  • Phase 3 - 5 albums - the albums I discovered from my 20's until now.

There are a few albums I have not listed on purpose, all great albums, but they exhaust me. Like Pink Floyd The Wall and The Final Cut. There should be at least one Beatles album there, but I find Beatles Albums are always a mixed bag - half brilliant songs, and half don't work for me. Even their greatest hits albums aren't 100% keepers. Same with Queen and Led Zeppelin. Pink Floyd Meddle was a close call, but I only really listen to two of the 5 songs. I was close to putting Midnight Oil Beds are Burning on the list, again, another album at just the right time for my musical sensibilities at the time, but I couldn't listen to the whole album.


Wednesday 27 July 2022


Quite a while ago, I noticed a bit of a buzz in my main classical guitar, the Esteve 1GR-11. I was quite convinced it was in the body, some wire or something from the pickup. It was very mild, on the D string, and only when I plucked really hard. I occasionally shook it, wiggled wires around when I changed strings, but it was not getting better, in fact it was slowly getting worse!

Test strip of paper and new nut
- will need some filing

When I recorded my most recent song, it was kinda bad, and was also now on the A string. So I really took to it properly this time, torch and mirror in the body and all.  I just couldn't see it.  In desperation I asked my wife - "where do you think this buzz is coming from? She immediately said "it's on the fretboard."

Yer what? No way! But, she was right. And to prove it to myself, I slipped a small square of paper, folded onto itself once, under the string on the nut.  And, with the few thou of extra distance to the fretboard, buzz went away.

It makes sense! The guitar was set up from the factory with nice low action at the nut and the saddle. But after years of tuning, dragging the rough wound string through the nut slot, of course it was going to wear material away.

No problem.  I ordered a bunch of bone nuts, you can get them from AliExpress pre-cut to almost the right size. And in they came. Now I just have to sit down with some sandpaper and a flat edge and slowly file it into place...

Sunday 26 June 2022

What's happening June 2022

I haven't taken any action on the custom guitar neck yet - but I the guitar in pieces ready to go, I need to make a nut. I wish I took the existing neck off before I ordered it, I was sure the fretboard had overhang, but it does not. Means the end of the neck won't butt up against the guitar. Not ideal, but it will still fit. Lesson is - take your neck off for a looksee before your order a custom one!

I posted my response to Paul Davids' "Never Going Back Agai"n challenge, wow that was hard. My final playthrough is not *superb* but that's okay. I'm pertty happy overall with the video I made, it is instructive but short, has comedy elements - it is one of my better talking videos to date. It's good practise to make videos like that, a useful skill to have in this day and age. I'd love to have a media room in my house - all my videos are full of cars going by, kids talking/watching TV in the background, dogs barking - and the lighting is never right. I need a friend who lives nearby with a studio!

I reckon is quintessential proof I am Ocker - Paul Hogan would be proud. I also posted The Mii Channel Theme, it's good fun 👍

Sunday 22 May 2022

What's happening May 2022

My custom guitar neck came in! I won't talk about it too much because I am putting together a video about it. Suffice to say, so far so good! The nut dimension is spot on to my specification, the construction and finish is good. People will argue about the fingerboard radius and neck profile ad infinitum, I didn't specify it, I wanted to see what they would come up with. It has a modest fingerboard radius, and a C type neck profile, I may attempt to measure them later. First step will be to make a nut for it, I'll report back on how I go!

Here's a primer photo, straight out of the box, needs a bit of oil to bring out the fretboard colour.

Custom Telecaster neck.

Meanwhile, I am ready to record "Never Going Back Again" but I will post it as some sort of response to Paul's challenge. Did I also mention that I have learnt the Nintendo Wii Mii Channel Theme? That was kinda another challenge. A self imposed challenge I guess. Man it is quirky and fun. I need to record that too. It's a shame I'm in the process of doing a bathroom renovation in my house, where does the time go!?!

Saturday 23 April 2022

Was never going to try that again...but Paul Davids made me

Paul Davids is such a likeable guy.  Good musician, guitarist, video producer - he has a knack for how many words are too many - and are too few.  I've been watching him for years, right back to when he was in his old house...yeah, he started his youtube channel 4 years after me...  He has a quirky accent to boot.

Anyway, he talked about Never Going Back Again, the fantastic (Fleetwood Mac) Lindsey Buckingham fingerstyle piece. From one of the best albums of all time, "Rumours".  It's a complicated piece, and I'd meddled with it decades ago, but never really bothered to properly learn it.  It's one of those pieces that is already completely full, there's no room to add the melody on top - although Kelly Valleau did with a slightly modified tuning.

I haven't felt the need to learn something complete rote for a long time.  But Paul Davids put out a challenge, so I am learning it completely from the sheet.  Paul was nice enough to include tab portions on his video which I bashed into musescore, now it's just play play play until it gets into your head.  It is within my capabilities, and I can play all the phrases.  But there a big problem, which he did point out, and I also experienced while arranging and learning "The Great Gig in the Sky" have to hold strange bar chords for long times.

Now you can only really hold constant bar chords for a few minutes at a time, which isn't really enough time to get the Travis picking polyrhythm funky chord positions that the song is into your noggin.

The end result I had with "The Great Gig in the Sky" is play it every time you pick up the guitar, after a few months it will go in.  Luckily this song is repetition of the same and similar phrases, so there is less to learn and you can go through the whole thing more then once in a sitting.

So it shouldn't take me months 👍

Tuesday 29 March 2022

$AUD142 experiment

It could be the Covid-19 talking (I'm nearly over it) but with the time at home in isolation I thought, measured, played, thought some more and rashly laid down $AUD(2022)142 for a very custom telecaster neck.  As previously discussed, 42mm necks on electric guitars don't suit my classical guitar mindset and I'm not at a point where I want them to. But because telecasters/copies are a standard design (thanks Leo!) you can get necks off the internet left right and centre. But every one of them a 42mm nut...

"Big Lou" in the US makes really wide necks for teles and strats, good on him! Good price, $100USD but shipping is more than half the price again!

Now since I live near Asia...well, relatively speaking...and Asia makes, well, most everything, I did an experiment on Aliexpress.  I asked around with the fender neck copiers who could make a 48mm nut neck.  (That's your 1 7/8" nut, so the same as a wide acoustic, but smaller than a classical.  With the fat strings on a classical 48mm feels like a good compromise.) One store didn't get back, one said "can't make" and another said "yes".

I have found in the past that you get amazing stuff out of China for the price. They really know what they are doing and do it in massive volumes.  Sure you get junk but you know when it is going to be junk. How about a custom guitar neck? Hmm. My engineering mind tells me the main cutting is done on some sort of CNC machine, so with a fixed program they can churn out hundreds at a time.  But if they don't have the program for something a bit different, how will they go?

 "Detailed" Custom Telecaster neck specification...

The person I dealt with was extremely responsive and friendly and very forthcoming. But alas, I have found even asking for something off the shelf can be difficult with the cultural and language difficulties. So I carefully worded what I was after, and even drew an annotated picture.  They said "48mm is not standard, are you sure?" - so they were paying attention, that is a good sign. The price went up each time I asked for something non-standard (48mm nut, ebony fingerboard) but I went ahead and paid my $142AUD and now I wait 50 days for it to be built - then they will take a photo before sending it!

What did I order? So Telecaster style, finished neck in maple, matt finish, ebony fretboard with no inlays - but side markings at 5, 7, 12, 17, 19 - and most importantly the 48mm nut width.  So yes, it will look a bit like a classical neck!

Let's see what happens, I'll report back later!

Saturday 26 March 2022

Neck nut sizes

The size of the nut on the neck of your guitar pretty much sets the "width" of your neck.  Because I started out on classical guitars, typically 50-52mm (1 15/16" -2") that's what was burnt into my brain. When I was given an electric, at 42mm (1 5/8") I played that with a flatpick, but never really got into it.  In the 90's I bought a Maton acoustic, at 44.5mm (1 3/4") I adapted and played fingerstyle on it for a decade.  But as my fingerstyle grew more complex, I found the neck too narrow and restricting for fingerstyle.  I would play my classical and find it easier, but I struggled to go back to the floppy nylon strings.

I tried a crossover nylon in the 2000's with a nut width of 48mm (1 7/8") and I liked it for a year or two, but once I was re-accustomed to nylon strings I went back to a classical at 52mm (2") nut. Full circle, done.

Now I have a new electric, at 43mm (1 11/16"), yeah, that's really cramped for fingerstyle for me.

Playing solo - I would stick with the classical.  However, when I play in a band that has keyboard, multiple vocals, drums and bass, the classical is lost - it sits too close in sound with the keyboard and the vocals.  Acoustic strummed with a pick fits in nicely because it is super-bright, but I want to do more than strum cowboy chords!

Important distinction: Acoustic with pick (or fingernails) - very bright.  Classical with fingernails, mellow with only a hint of sparkly bright coming through the fingernails.

Another important distinction: Acoustic - tough hard fretting.  Classical - lighter touch fretting, on par with electric guitar fretting.

So to get the electric to fingerstyle playable in a band setting I think I will change the neck over to around 48mm (1 7/8") at the nut.  (Remembering that steel string trebles are nice'n'skinny not like classical, so I don't think you need the full 50-52mm.)

Alternatively, put the classical through a super brightening pedal effect.

I'll get back to experimenting :-)

GuitarNut Width    
Nut Width
Telecaster copy43mm1 11/16"
Maton Acoustic44.5mm1 3/4"
Crossover Yamaha Nylon    48mm1 7/8"
Esteve Classical52mm2"

Sunday 13 March 2022

I bought an electric guitar!

Perhaps this comes as no surprise based on my my recent post, but after half a century I actually purchased an electric guitar. "Am I reading this right JAW, is this the first electric guitar you have ever bought?"  Yes, that is correct.  While I have mentioned that I do own an electric guitar that my mum bought for me when I was 16, I never really got into it, and have been playing nylon and acoustic all my life instead.  So no, I had never bought an electric guitar, until now.

Before you get too excited, it is second hand, not new. I see that as a good thing - worn in, with history! But since my last post I had already been watching the local classifieds for telecasters.  One came along that really intrigued me.  Because this one has an acoustic pickup in addition to the normal magnetic coils. I kept telling myself no, I don't need it, I won't like it, but it was too late, curiosity got the better of me.  I had to try it.  And then when I did, I still didn't know if I would be able to do anything with it, but I had to have it.  I was pretty ruthless; the poor dude who was selling it had been trying for two weeks to unload it.  He probably paid around $AUD1400 for it new, he started the price at $800, he let it go to me for $500.  Nice bloke - thanks Will.

Guitar styled after a 90's Fender Telecaster.

So what is it JAW? It's a Michael Kelly, in 1955 Telecaster style.  I think it is quite pretty - it has a book matched maple front, quite a thick chunk from the look of it.  A nice sunburst finish around the edges. The white pearl styled pickguard is a bit much, I am already picturing a project down the track to make a replacement black one - it will look slightly reminiscent of the George Harrison Tele.  The volume and mic selector switch is very 50's telecaster.  But it is the acoustic pickup that sold me.

If you look carefully there is a three way switch on the front up near the guitar strap, and a knob towards the bottom.  The switch controls whether the acoustic pickup is included (acoustic only / acoustic + electric / no acoustic) and the knob controls the mix level.  When I played it, I thought the (Fishmann powerbridge) acoustic pickup - part of the bridge - it sounded fantastic. I will talk more about this pickup in the future.

But also, the whole guitar was lively - quite lively.  I could feel the vibration through the whole thing as I was playing it. Like every part of it was resonating.  I haven't played many electrics, but that was new to me.  It's only really my Esteve classical guitar that I have noticed that every part of it is trying to produce sound like that.

So it's at home, I have played it a bit.  Still don't like the skinny neck.  The intonation is not right, I think I will be able to fix it, but electric guitar intonations never seem right.  The light strings - the light touch is, well, kinda nice.  Acoustics are brutal on the left hand, unforgiving.  Nylons are touchy, also unforgiving.  We will see if this is also unforgiving in its own way.  But being an electric, well, if I don't like the neck I could always buy a wider one and bolt it on :-)

Another toy arrived a week later - a effects pedal.  But that is a story for another day.


Saturday 26 February 2022

What's happening February 2022

I've hit a practise low. I have finished my arrangements for Cream - White Room, Dragon - Rain, Bob Dylan - It's All Over Now Baby Blue, Queen - I Want to Break Free and I am not happy with my ability to play any of them.  I can be a perfectionist and am overly self critical, but normally I can forgive myself,  just create and post.  But this time I seem to be unable to even get any of them to the most basic level of play through that I would expect.  My practise is currently unfocused - we should all be practising intentionally - normally I can wing it through a song with just ad hoc practise - so without focused intentional practise - but not at the moment.  Not sure what the solution is, I'll report back.

Possibly as a result of the above, for the first time in a long time I have thought about playing the electric guitar.  Fingerstyle of course, I'm not a philistine! ;-) The only electric guitar that I have ever owned, which my mum bought me when I was 16, does the job but I've never really enjoyed playing it fingerstyle.  One recording exists of me playing it on youtube, a long time ago, 2007. I feel that a telecaster is the right guitar for fingerpicking, it seems like a simple unit with no fancy floating bridge making it go constantly out of tune, but I've never tried one.  As if by magic, Joe Robinson played one for his first song on his previous livestream and as much as he nailed it, I just didn't like the sound!  I think one of the reasons I am considering an electric is because my touch has become so heavy, I need to restrict myself by playing an instrument that demands a light touch.

There's a lot to unpack in all that, but I think I'll go play the guitar instead.  I've got a bunch of songs to record!


Friday 7 January 2022

What's happening January 2022

Happy new year!  I've been on holidays for nearly 3 weeks, the longest I have had in a while.  Not even doing any home renovations (my usual 'holidays') just bludging around...watching TV and playing video games with the missus, staying up too late and sleeping in, and playing plenty of guitar.

I recorded two videos and I recorded the first with three cameras and one microphone, and then the second with three cameras and two microphones.  I like to use two microphones but when I'm feeling lazy I just use one (when I use three cameras it's a lot more work to video edit).  But I noticed the slightly hollow audio so I went with two the second recording.  And it got me thinking.  So I recorded a video about it

That video took over a full day to produce...I was rusty with my tutorial video recording skills, I hadn't done one for a year.  It's a good skill to have, I should keep doing them.  I even subtitled it - I have found in the past that even I struggle to understand what I'm mumbling about, so what chance does a non-Australian have?  But in creating this video it really reinforced my belief that two condenser microphones in a quiet room is an ideal way to record acoustic audio.  Note to self - always use two microphones.

Spent a lot of time tidying up some tabs for my supporters, still to record is 'White Room' and 'I Want to Break Free'.  Holidays are nearly over, so it will be a month or two.

I play monthly at my local church in the band, I've noticed it has helped my tempo playing with others.  Not fixed, but helped...I noticed because when I recorded some guitar in my discussion video I had to play to a metronome and I didn't struggle to do it as much as normal. I think that is a good thing :-)